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To the mama who lets their child pick their own outfits—I see you

I see that your child also has 5+ bows in their hair and a layer of leggings, shorts and a skirt on.

To the mama who lets their child pick their own outfits—I see you

My oldest has been expressing herself with clothing, shoes, costumes, hats, jewelry, gloves and bows (lots of bows) for two years now, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. She's five, but her love for styling herself independently began around age three. She loves colors and patterns and prints. (Especially when there are lots of different ones together in one outfit.) Mixing and matching and over-accessorizing is her love language.

She will come out of her room and declare herself ready to go—in the MOST creative concoctions I have ever seen. Truly. Lady Gaga's got nothin' on this 5-year-old fashionista.

There was the time she wore her green frog dance recital costume (including the hat and gloves) with a Christmas Rudolph sweater over it and mermaid leggings under it—to the grocery store.

There was the time she wore a furry unicorn onesie with heart-shaped sunglasses that looked like they came straight out of Elton John's closet and clip-on earrings—to music class.

And then there was the time—oh wait, it's most of the time—when she layers (there are always so many layers). Because, honey, a t-shirt and leggings are just the base layer! After that, you need to add jean shorts over the leggings, a dress over the t-shirt, a cardigan over the dress and you must always remember to pack a small carry-on size back of backup outfits anywhere you go.

Then, and only then, will you be ready for the day.

This place we are now—where my kids dress (mostly) however they want—took some time to get to. I have not always been comfortable with the layering (is that tank top really necessary over that long-sleeved shirt?!) and the mixing of colors and patterns makes my inner-perfectionist want to shout, "THAT DOESN'T MATCH! NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT!"

But, over time, I've trained myself to say instead, "You look awesome! Nice outfit!" as long as it's weather appropriate.

Because, it's their body they're dressing—not mine.

It's their way of expressing themselves—not mine.

It affects their mood—it should not affect mine.

I don't have control over their bodies and choices, and I don't want that. I aim to be their guide, helping and assisting when necessary. I have let go of aiming for or wanting control.

If it's good for them. It's good for me. They are learning how to make their own choices, how to dress and get ready for the day independently, and it takes one thing off of my very long to-do list. It's a win-win for everyone, really. (Let's skip the topic of dealing with meltdowns over not being able to wear your swimsuit and flip flops when it's snowing out for another essay…😂)

So to the mother who has let their child dress themselves today—I FEEL you. I see you. I am you.

I see that your child also has 5+ bows in their hair and a layer of leggings, shorts and a skirt on.

I see that your child has a Spiderman costume on with a shark sweatshirt over it and a PJ Mask cape attached to the back.

And I see that your child has every color of the rainbow on, plus their shoes on the wrong feet.

My friend, I salute you.

I know that your kiddo dressed themselves and I want to give you both a big high five. I know this life well. And I know you too might wonder, What are people going to think with this outfit on? That I'm not teaching my kids to look presentable? That I don't care enough to tell them that their shoes are on the wrong feet?

I know that's not the case.

I know you're showing your child what having control over their own body looks like.

I know you're allowing them to feel free creatively in their expression of themselves.

I know you're helping to shape them into confident humans.

I know you're choosing your battles wisely.

And I know you told them that their feet may be more comfortable if they switched their shoes around, but they swear they like how it feels that way.

We've learned over the past few years from my kid's favorite movie soundtracks, Annie, that "you're never fully dressed without a smile"—but little did those lyricists know they should have added, "and also at least three layers of various items of clothing, three bows and three additional accessories of your choosing!" (That doesn't have quite the same ring to it though, now does it?)

Happy dressing! 😉

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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